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I am planning a self-travel itinerary in Cuba. I read a lot already but there are still confusing aspects. As I understand the best intercity transport is Viazul but is has few disadvantages (or maybe I misunderstand how it works):

  1. There are not so many stops (where you can get on or off) along the way, for example, I would like to visit Soroa (in the west) that seems to be along the route according to this picture but I don't see it is the list of stops on the official website.

  2. Routes are not clear, for example, I want to get to Playa Largo and I don't understand which line is it (Havana - Playa Largo shows nothing).

  3. Not so many departure times.

So I read that there is an alternative: taxi colectivo. My question is it a good alternative? Is it more flexible than Viazul? Are there better alternatives?

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Last year I went Havana - Vinales - Cienfuegos - Trinidad - Santiago de Cuba - Baracoa with Viazul, and Baracoa - Havana with taxi colectivo.

ad 1. Viazul generally stops only in some restaurants in middle of nowhere. When I was travelling with Viazul there were some people leaving the bus between stops, they confirmed it with driver before. But I don't think it's 100% sure you'll be able to do it. And I also couldn't find official route, so that may not be the best idea. Also, inside it was always super cold (outside was > 30 C, inside people were covered with blankets, it was like 14 C all the time). There were no nightly buses, only departure of 12h long route was at 8 AM, so you're wasting whole day for travel.

ad 3. I don't have it with me but Lonely Planet guide had a list of departure times. The only problem is they were often outdated, the only 100% way to confirm was going to bus station after arriving to some place and asking about departure times, planning your route one step ahead only.

Taxi colectivos are more flexible, but generally more expensive (unless you have more people travelling with you, with 3-4 people it's equal to Viazul). You can find guys providing their services on every bus station. You can set a schedule with them usually. If you're alone you should be able to join other tourists (but with restricted internet access it's often difficult), I just met some Polish guys on the street and organised the route with them.

Just as an anecdote, I had some bad experience with colectivos, me and friends were supposed to go by new car with two drivers switching (Baracoa - Havana is a long way), but we got some old Chinese car with engine that was constantly dying, only one aggressive driver, who at first was driving like crazy, and then started falling asleep behind the wheel. We had to talk to him for some time to keep him awake, after few hours my friend took the wheel and driver went to sleep in the back row, it was too dangerous for him to drive. I'm not saying it's always like this, but you can never be sure, colectivos are not controlled by anyone.

If you'll be sleeping in casas particulares, you can ask the owners for recommendation.

There is also a train but I wasn't able to find any good information about it.

About Soroa, I found this on Wikivoyage

There’s no Viazul buses stopping in Soroa, however since the village starts at the highway junction and there’s an easy stop at the gas station, it's probably ok for the driver to drop you off there. Check with the driver first and then buy your ticket to Pinar del Rio (which is the next stop). The same hold when coming from Las Terrazas, although from there you can also take a cab for 15 CUC. Alternatively take a collectivo from Havana. You’ll find drivers around the Viazul bus station there, but may need to pay the full price to Viñales (15 CUC per person).

  • So intercity colectivos are for tourists? – Andrey Jan 30 '17 at 17:12
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    Your story about trip to Baracoa is pretty crazy, great that it ended well for you. We are not going that far anyway. – Andrey Jan 30 '17 at 17:13
  • Yeah, it was kinda insane, fortunately nothing happened, we couldn't look for another car because we were going straight to the airport... but many of my friends used colectivos without any issues :) – Kuba Jan 30 '17 at 23:29
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If it's not among Viazul stops then Viazul does not go there, simple as a pie!

Viazul is an intercity bus, and that's a key point. It doesn't cover small cities and POIs.
If you want to visit Soroa, you'd better take taxi collectivo or simple taxi. You may not find taxi collectivo if no other people would go to Soroa and you'll have to pay for taxi personally which could be rather pricey.

  • Ok well that is simple. How can I locate taxi collectivo that would go to Soroa? Or the private taxi? And how much do you think a private taxi would cost? – Andrey Jan 30 '17 at 16:43
  • I added some info about getting to Soroa to my answer – Kuba Jan 30 '17 at 16:57
  • @Andrey AFAIR, I took private taxi from Havana to Cienfuegos (which is around 200 km) for 100 CUC or so-so. Taxi collectivo to other cities should be caught near central bus stations (e.g. here) – Suncatcher Jan 30 '17 at 17:01
  • @Suncatcher I think 100cuc for 200km is a reasonable price. I am wondering what is principal difference between colectivos and private taxi? As I understand colectivo will not leave until it is full meaning it is possible that it never goes at all, so if I buy out all seats for example it can turn into private taxi or I am getting it wrong? – Andrey Jan 30 '17 at 17:15
  • @Andrey, exactly! You got the idea pefectly. The idea of taxi collectivo is to make a ride cheaper for each participant if they go the same way (the same principle as in regular public transport). However, for driver it totally doesn't matter how many passengers he takes, if you pay him the same buck. – Suncatcher Jan 30 '17 at 17:26
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There are other ways to get around Cuba and it helps if you speak Spanish. If you spend some time in Havana you might be able to meet a trustworthy driver (or be introduced to one by the owner if you stay at a Casa particular) and you could strike a deal for them to drive you wherever you want.

I traveled by train when I was there, and it was an amazing experience and extremely cheap but there are problems with that mode. Timetable information is almost impossible to find and the process for buying tickets is also obscure. I waited for 6 hours past the departure time in a queue at Havana for the train to Santa Clara and we stopped for no obvious reason at various times throughout the trip.Even still, when I arrived there at 4am there was a line of (horse drawn) taxis waiting to take passengers away.

I also travelled on Viazul and found the train to be a much better overall experience.

  • I speak minimal Spanish (=learned phrasebook), so this is not a good option for me personally. But I am wondering what is up with Viazul if you found train better experience despite that it sounds like a disaster in your post. – Andrey Feb 17 '17 at 13:40
  • @Andrey, I found it hard to socialise on the buses, also I was afraid of falling through my seat onto the road on one Viazul bus and the smell of mold and various unpleasant odours in most of their caches made Viazul unpleasant. On the other hand, the cheerful passengers and roomier carriages on the trains made socialising easier, and other passengers with musical instruments and food to share made overlooking the delays easier. – flurbius May 1 '17 at 22:39
  • So I actually undertook a journey that I planned and I used Viazuls, collectivos and private taxis and I would say Viazul was the best. Especially if you only know 5 words in Spanish. I heard a lot of horror stories about viazul and none of them were even remotely close to my experience. – Andrey May 2 '17 at 9:35
  • I did also have good journeys by viazul - in particular on my way back to Havana - I guess thats one of the great things about travel, sometimes the journey is the destination other times its just the beginning :-) – flurbius May 10 '17 at 18:56

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